G. Special verbs taking a phrase of duration. There is a class of verbs describing actions that terminate as soon as they begin, such as: bìyè毕业graduate, jiéhūn结婚get married, rènshi认识meet (in the sense of becoming acquainted for the first time), tuìxiū退休retire and so on. They are one-shot actions that do not last. For example, one is either married or not married, retired or not retired. So, to indicate the duration of the state as a result of the action, the sentence must use the sentence-end modal particle le. Zài ‘to be at (a place)’ does not belong to this category. It can be compared to a verb of denoting posture. It also uses the sentence-end le when its duration is attached to it.

 

7.1     Tāmén jiéhūn liǎng nián le.  

他们结婚两年了。

They have been married for two years. /It’s been two years since they got married.

 

7.2     bìyè shí nián le.  

我毕业十年了。

It’s been ten years since I graduated.

 

7.3     Wǒmén rènshi liǎng yuè le.  

我们认识两个月了。

We have known each other for two months. /It has been two months since we met.

 

7.4     xiānsheng zai Měiguó liǎng yuè le.  

李先生在美国两个月了。

Mr. Li has been in America for two months.

 

It is important to note that ‘die’ belongs to this type of verbs. When it takes a phrase of duration it does not indicate that the action itself is lasting for that duration. What it indicates is the duration of the state as a result of the action, namely, the duration of being dead. Unlike other verbs in this category, must take a verb-suffix le as well as a sentence-end modal particle le. -le死了 here indicates the state of being dead.

 

7.5     -le nián le.  

他死了一年了。

It’s been a year since he died. /He’s been dead for a year.

 

These special verbs must follow these rules, which are quite different from those that regular verbs have to follow. Please read on to see notes below about how regular verbs use le to indicate actions progressing up to when they are brought up in the conversation.